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I Got Busted Spanking in Suburbia

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Attention white people, we spank our kids. And I'm not going to be ashamed of it anymore.

woman with crying child

Kimberly Seals Allers: My parents spanked me. In fact, spanking is really your term, not ours--We got beatings. Straight up. And before you call the local child welfare bureau, let me explain.

My Mom and Dad beat with love. They'd sit you down and explain why you were going to get it, how much it hurt them more than it hurt you and then one of them would give it to you. Afterward, my mom would hug you, tell you that she loved you and leave you there to whimper and sniff yourself to sleep.

It was discipline with love, not child abuse. A few years ago when Jamie Foxx, while accepting a groundbreaking Oscar, thanked him grandmother for beating him and keeping him straight, white folks went crazy. But black people completely understood. We know how our mamas, grandmamas, and aunties beat us with love -- and then sent us outside to walk it off!

Until recently, I've never had to spank my children. But I've never ruled it out of my parenting playbook. The Bible says, 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' and I never claim to be wiser than Him.

Up until recently, I've only used the belt as a "memory enhancer." For example, sometimes at night they forget they were told to be quiet, go to sleep and stop talking, playing, or asking for a drink of water. At this point, I simply take out the belt, drape it over their doorknob and magically they remember what they were told to do. Amazing!

However, a few months ago, I spanked my daughter for the first time. Not a beating like I got, but about three "licks" because she had (very, very surprisingly) done something that really crossed the line. And I really needed her to get the point that this was beyond unacceptable.

I did exactly as my mother had done, lovingly explaining to her while holding her in my arms why she about to get it.

I took a deep breath.

I didn't think I could, but now I had to keep my word, at least for one lick.

My daughter, being a tween dramatic expert, started screaming as if she was getting a real beating, like I used to get. The noise began well before contact was ever even made. Even then, I only gave her one spank.

It never dawned on me that the bedroom window was half open.

Apparently, a neighbor heard her Oscar-worthy performance. Oy vay! And not even a real neighbor, but the not too respectable live-in boyfriend of my actual neighbor (you know the kind that is never seen without a beer in hand) Apparently, he told another neighbor that I beat my kids and he was watching me.

Thankfully everyone on my block sees me bike riding with my kids, skateboarding with my kids, pulling them in a wagon for nightly summertime strolls, and otherwise actively engaged with my children and knew not to pay the beer guy any mind. But it really bothered me!

The funny part is that when I told my black girlfriends, who also live in white suburbia, what happened, their first response was, "Girl, you should know to close the windows and turn the TV or radio on! What were you thinking?"

Apparently, I had broke the "how to spank your kids around white people rules" and didn't even know it. Why didn't I get the memo?

Which made me think, why do we hide that we spank with love from the world? I'm not talking about spanking with anger or any abuse. But I am talking about old-fashioned values and respect and a good tap of the "memory box" when all else fails. Somehow the good of a well-deserved beating got tossed in with the bad, and then all beatings became a dirty word. A sinful parenting act. And I just don't agree.

Our parents weren't perfect, but I will tell you this: I was respectful and obedient, I knew I would have to work hard to get over on my parents, and whenever I thought of acting a fool (from misbehaving at school, underage drinking or sneaking out as a teen) -- the fear of my Mom or Dad getting me good was a powerful motivator to keep me straight! Plus, I had a healthy respect of all authority figures, which has served me well in life.

There's something to be said for that.

In fact, when black people hear white kids rudely talk back to their parents, cursing at their parents or otherwise being disrespectful, we just can't believe it. We think something is wrong with y'all for tolerating that from your kids. (Yes, I said it)

As a new generation of black parents, I see my fellow modern mamas trying to blend a little of the old school with new school ideas of more communication, greater expression, and even a little negotiation (I said a little).

But I don't want to hide that discipline and respect are important to me. And if other means aren't working, I'm definitely willing to lovingly go there. I will however, always close the window.

next: Observations from My Own Front Line
132 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jessie December 19, 2009, 8:22 AM

Im white and I spank my little girl when she does something that crosses the line I dont know why you are trying to make this a race thing and I got beatings when I was little too. Just bc the “white” people you live around acts like that doesnt mean you should pass judgement on the rest of us.You dont want judgement passed on you.We are suppose to be the human race and not judged by the color of our child is respectful and get punished for what she does wrong whether that be a spanking,timeout,etc…. Maybe you are not doing thing right either there hunny bc your child screamed so bad that the neibors thought you were beating your child and you talk about white people children talking back to them.WTF? Racism is wrong period and if you are teaching your child this you are not a good mother.I guess ignorance is bliss

Anonymous January 8, 2010, 6:53 AM

Just another example of suburban bourgoise attitude of ‘my way is the right way.’ I’m more annoyed with the “I’m a great mom with my spanking and nightly wagon rides and you’re not” attitude than with the spanking (sorry, beating) itself.

anonymous January 14, 2010, 8:58 PM

Ridiculous. To make this racial is just awful. If “spanking” is such a great idea, then the groups who do it, irrespective of race, would have, in general, better-behaved children, fewer in jail, fewer commiting crimes, etc. Is this the case? Obviously not. Hitting children is a huge part of the problem because it degrades and dehumanizes and thus leads to, in fact, more crime and more famiial and social dysfunction. This is by now obvious and well documented. No reputable scholar or psychologist would endorse the self-hating and self-destructive points of view articulated in this ridiculous column.

MommaToNico January 26, 2010, 9:27 PM

There is nothing wrong with spanking. I was spanked as a child, and I can tell you from experience that I RESPECTED my parents, I did not FEAR them. And I still do respect my parents. I am 23 years old and do not cuss in front of my Momma. I have a three year old son who I spank when I think he needs it. He also gets punishments like standing in the corner, and I believe that the punishment should always fit the crime if possible. When my baby colors on the walls, he gets a rag to wash the walls. Or to at least try to help wash them. I just think it’s ridiculous how many “holier than thou” parents there are out there who think that spanking is evil. Grow up.

By the way, I’m white, but my son is biracial, black and white. If that matters to anyone.

Toni February 2, 2010, 2:43 PM

Sara, you obviously didn’t READ the article. She said she spanked her daughter with ONE hite & her daughter PERFORMED (as in acted a fool, yelling for no reason as if she was being hit much harder than she was, I hope you know kids do that to make parents feel bad, kid psychology).
I agree with the article (and thank you for saying you’re not smarter than HIM, GOD. Yes, I will say it too…when other races allow their kids to disrespect them and act a fool, I want to snatch them and YOU for allowing them), then you wonder why your kids run all over you!

Anonymous February 2, 2010, 2:47 PM

If Black people don’t spank their kids, white people blame them when their kids turn out so bad. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!
You’d better believe I spank my children. I am married and have boys and they do try me as the softie….not happening. Dad is the cool one & MOM is the one they step back from with the nonsense and ONLY because I will put out the belt. Women do not get the same respect as the dads because we’re not as tall, big, or loud so I use the belt…it evens the playing field and the boys come correct with respect.
At 12 they’re already taller than me & I’m not struggling with any of them, so they know I am not to be played with!

Russel Peters February 4, 2010, 9:38 PM

These white kids that don’t get beat are going to end up going to school with kids from other races. When all his black, asian, or latino friends are talking about the *ss-whooping they got, he is going to feel so left out. White people, beat your kids, so they don’t become a social outcast.

Sharee February 20, 2010, 12:02 AM

Hey when my kids act up their clothes and underwear come off and the belt comes out. Yes, they get naked whippings just like I got when I was little. Believe me it works and they behave.

Dana February 25, 2010, 5:46 AM

I’m very surprised to see this framed as a racial issue.

(FYI, I’m white and pro-spanking — as long as it’s done judiciously, in love, as you said, and not out of anger. The formula is: lots of love and attention, with appropriate discipline when needed… and yes, sometimes, with some kids, a swat on the bottom is the most appropriate discipline in certain situations.)

I get irritated when I see liberal white parents pleading with their out-of-control brats. “Pleeease, Montana, please don’t throw that at Mommy… Mommy *might* have to give you a time-out if you don’t stop after I ask you nicely another 11 times….”

But the other extreme is just as wrong. I’ve seen parents dragging their tired and frustrated children through Walmart threatening to “tear them up” or “whoop their a$$” for some minor offense. That breaks my heart and certainly isn’t the kind of loving discipline I received as a child.

I pity the children of both extremes, both of whom will grow up with severe problems. Those of us who practice spanking the “right” way are becoming a dying breed.

~ a white suburban spanker

Bianca  April 1, 2010, 4:23 PM

Im black and I am not going to whip my kids I think it is wrong and stupid to whip/beat your children and that whole” it hurts me more than it hurts you ” thing is a load of crap and I am tire of hearing it

Bianca  April 1, 2010, 4:50 PM

you know i’ve never really seen the point of spanking/whipping your kids It is ineffective and I do not buy it when people say” I beat them for their own good” or “I beat them out of love” that is also a load of crap

Shannon June 30, 2010, 9:31 PM

WHite, middle-class, suburban reared and spanked as a kid—in just the way you describe—talk first, hug after “hurts me more than you, blah-blah blah. Belt. I associate it with Southerness, as my folks are from Arkansas. I think a lot of Black/white assumptions are really also very much regional and class issues. But I digress. Now I’m raising Black children and I don’t spank. But I don’t take disrespect and back-talk either. I have exceptionally well-behaved kids, in fact, something I am often told by strangers in public places—restaurants and airplanes, to name a couple. But I do not want them to behave well because they fear that I will hit them if they don’t. So I use alternatives. And they DO work. If you say “I’m counting to 3 and then you will have a consequence” and never, ever, ever get past “two and a half…” like many parent I know, sure, your kids will run all over you. But get to three and give them that consequence once or twice and they’ll remember it. Works like the belt on the doorknob but less harrowing.

Ashley July 7, 2010, 8:51 AM

With all due respect, I think that this article is a prime example of reverse racism. Yes, I’m white…now that that’s out of the way, I don’t understand why the most commonplace of issues have to take on the race factor. With a background in Psychology, I can tell you that the spanking debate is a hot-button issue no matter what color your skin is. The majority of psychological experts today would say that spanking does more harm than good to children, but I have to disagree. I truly believe that I turned out better as an adult in part because my parents spanked me as a child. It’s not so much the act of spanking per say, but rather the parenting style that comes along with it. My parents taught me to be respectful, and ingrained in me right from wrong beginning at an early age. I rarely got into trouble even as a teenager because I knew that I would have consequences to face if I did. I firmly believe that if more parents (no matter what race) raised their kids in this manner, our society as a whole would be better off. Bottom line? It’s not a race issue; rather, it’s an issue of “old-fashioned” values versus modern politically-correct child rearing. Everyone seems to be so afraid that their actions will upset another group of people (be it race, religion, gender, etc.), that we are moved to inaction…Which, no matter what your background, I think you can agree is detrimental to everyone involved.

Anonymous July 7, 2010, 3:44 PM

Um… I’m white… I got spanked, pretty much just as you described, lovingly. This is SO not a race issue! Everyone has to watch it with the spanking now, not just black people. One of the moms that my family knows, a wonderful mom who was giving not giving a “beating” but a “spank” in love, had DEFACS called on her. She’s white! It isn’t a race thing, it’s a culture in general thing.

Anonymous July 13, 2010, 6:26 PM

“beating” and “spanking” aside - I sincerely hope you do not communicate your ignorant and racist attitude to your children. Do you assume your neighbor was shocked because he was white, or that your actions are limited to your race. You have a “us v. them” mentality that will only progress racial intolerance and cultural insensitivity. You are clearly a writer who goes for shock value rather than intelligent content, and give all writers and civil rights workers a bad name. Shame on you.

P.S. Guess my race

anonymous2 July 27, 2010, 6:37 AM

I hate spankings for 2 reasons.

1: It hurts
2: It interferes with children’s God given to Free will. (I don’t like people interefering with my free will.) Do you?

Emma August 18, 2010, 7:50 PM

Wow. You guys are so ignorent. I know you type of mom’s, you’re the ones that are the leading cause of this messed up generation. You need to stop spoiling your child and actually do something.

Also, learn something about the issue before posting all that crap about “they’ll grow up and be violent” Seriously? For thousands of years people have been doing that, so George Washington was a violent criminal? Because he was beat.

Thanks for creating a narsasistic and arrogent generation.
BTW I’m 11

Daniela September 16, 2010, 3:37 PM

I ran into this by mistake, but am appalled by what I have just read.

I am sickened by your scare tactics and how you treat your children. I am white and my dad threatened me with the belt and beat us with it. I have problems to this day with it. At least 50x a day (I am 40) I relive it.

God Bless you for doing what you think is right, but trust me, might does not equal right.

Children are human beings who should be given the same respect that everyone else is. You are just a cruel bully who never got any smarter than your parents were. It is time to wise up! I am sickened…just sickened…

TeresaP December 2, 2010, 12:57 PM

I wish people would stop making a racial issue out of the way that children should be disciplined. I think parents know what is best for their own children. Unless, out and out abuse is occurring we all should stay out of what is a personal decision.

When I first became a mother, I didn’t think I would ever end up spanking. That approach worked with our first son and our daughter. However, it didn’t work with my youngest son. I tried very hard to discipline him with grounding and taking away privileges. It didn’t seem to work. Than one day, he and a friend broke some windows with rocks in a vacant house for sale about a mile away. That experience was a wake up call for me. I realized we just had to do more. It was my husband who insisted that our son receive a spanking for his actions. It was a hard day for me having to watch my son get his pants pulled down and have to bend over his father’s knee in his underpants. It was hard to see the tears that he cried. Yet, I felt the spanking accomplished something that grounding and loss of privileges didn’t. It made our son actually feel some fear and shame over his actions. I think with some kids spanking is necessary.

Facebook Fans December 9, 2010, 2:07 PM

Awesome blog post, thank you. Can you explain on the 2nd paragraph in a little more detail please?

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